Hallo, Aro: Leaving – K. A. Cook

Banner for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aro Flash Fiction. Image features dark black handwritten type on a mottled green background. Diagonal rows of arrows with bands, heads and fletching in the colours of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold allo-aro pride flag cross the image above and below the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

Contains: A pansexual aromantic of undisclosed gender enduring alloromantic partners’ expectations of casual sexual relationships evolving into romance–at least until they find another aromantic.

Now you know to anticipate assumptions, so you stop and explain. Just tonight, just the road, just the feeling with no expectations for anything else after. Just the sex. Nothing else.

Links: PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 767 words / 3 PDF pages.

Advisory: Depiction of amatonormativity and expectation of romance in sexual relationships. Please note that this story contains the use of a misogynistic, sex-negative slur more often targeted at allo-aro and multisexual folks.

The first man is dark-eyed and pretty, given to lyrical outpourings and an undoubting mastery of story. You meet him on the road, and, as his direction parallels yours for a time, you stop at the same campsites, sing the same songs and share the same swag. The mouth that threads words together like glistening beads on a string holds the power to loosen your limbs and warm your thighs, and how can you refuse someone so gifted? Why should you?

He nestles beside you at night, raising his lips from your skin to whisper endearments and promises witnessed by gods dead and living. When your breaths quicken in response, he reads it, in his confidence, as passion.

You make no pledge to him. You speak no lie before leaving him.

His stare bores holes into your spine when your roads part. That mouth, proud and poetical, shouts words so barbed it feels they must flay your skin from bone.

As the road twines through the hills, that man and his loving cruelties fade into the distance, almost forgotten.

The second person speaks more with hands than tongue, hir curved nose and high cheekbones shrouded by hanging curls. Ze sits distant from the revelries of merchant travellers and wandering bards on the other side of the camp, leaving you with a teasing glimpse through the haze of fire and smoke. You don’t think. You just cross and sit beside hir, waiting for hir smile, yearning to know what noise shyness makes when ze loses hir inhibitions.

In the nights that follow, ze allows you under hir blankets and inside hir skin. In hir passionate wordlessness you think, this time, that you’ve found understanding.

Hir gasping tears, when you tell hir that you mean to travel the rest of your road alone, prove you wrong. Don’t you love hir? Why did you come to hir if not from love?

Curiosity seems such a wretched thing when it leaves gushing wounds in your wake.

The third woman possesses lush curves and beaming lips. She walks up to you one night, a staff in one hand and a sword at her hip. She winks, her black-brown eyes flickering down your body without hesitation or reserve, and she smiles when you say yes, her expression rich and warm.

Now you know to anticipate assumptions, so you stop and explain. Just tonight, just the road, just the feeling with no expectations for anything else after. Just the sex. Nothing else.

She laughs and nods, for she’s a mercenary and why do you think she wishes anything but distraction? It’s good between you after that: frenetic and rough as though you’re both trying to prove to the other that it isn’t love, yet wondrously uncomplicated. You revel in the week of nights that follow, bold and unfearful. This is all you ever wanted: temporary liberation in another’s body.

Betrayal comes when she asks you to ride with her; her lips form hard, brittle lines when you refuse. She wields edged words honed on the belief that good people should grow, naturally, beyond the casual to the romantic, and again you witness passion turn to hatred for what you can’t return. There’s no logic in her rage, just the lie she told herself, but you still turn away, weeping, from the names hurled at your back.

Your feet now waver, but there’s nowhere but the journey for you. Home and village hold the same stifling expectations of hearth and marriage, and you can’t lie well enough to oblige your kin. You grieve each time you walk away from campfire lovers, but it’s harder still to flee demanding neighbours.

Slut, you suppose, for you know not what else to call yourself.

The next man sits thick and slab-muscled, his eyes flickering towards you, his brow raised in question. Large hands gently stroke the ears of the dog on his lap. He isn’t pretty, but a deep emptiness inside you craves softness, a need that draws your wondering eyes to his fingers. A need rendered brittle and ugly by despair, but you round the fire to speak, knowing how this must end.

I like sex, but I don’t want any kind of relationship. I won’t want one, no matter how good or kind you are. I won’t.

He nods and pats the ground beside him. Aromantic, then? Same.

You lie that night curled against his back, his dog’s head heavy on your legs, a newfound word calm in your mind.

For the first time, you find someone else walking the same road.

K. A. Cook is an abrosexual, aromantic, agender autistic who experiences chronic pain and mental illness. Ze writes creative non-fiction, personal essays and fiction about the above on the philosophy that if the universe is going to make life interesting, ze may as well make interesting art. You can find hir blogging at Aro Worlds and running the Tumblr accounts @aroworlds and @alloaroworlds.

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